ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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House OKs Immigration Legislation Mandating New Identification Document Security Standards


New York, Feb 10, 2005

New immigration legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives today includes new federal issuance standards and minimum document requirements that dictate what features drivers’ licenses must have and restricts the issuance of licenses to U.S. citizens only. Main provisions of HR 418, or the “REAL ID Act,” also make it easier for judges to expel asylum seekers. The bill passed in the House 261 to 161 and is now under consideration by the Senate.

Supporters of the REAL ID Act and license restrictions cite the ability of the September 11, 2001, hijackers to obtain multiple drivers’ licenses that enabled them to carry out their terrorist activities. House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., one of the bill’s authors, noted multiplicity of state license designs as a factor in security gaps. "We all know it's very difficult for security officials at airports to tell the real ID cards from the counterfeit ones," said Sensebrenner.

Opponents believe the requirements of the Real ID Act make it a precursor to the controversial creation of a national ID card. The legislation would require each state to:

  • Employ technology to capture digital images of identity source documents so that the images can be retained in electronic storage in a transferable format;
  • Subject each person applying for a drivers' license or identification card to mandatory facial image capture; and
  • Limit the period of validity of all drivers' licenses and identification cards that are not temporary to a period that does not exceed 8 years.

The National Governors Association and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (an ANSI accredited standards developer) have protested the bill. In a letter to Congress, the groups cautioned that the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 already "provides a workable framework for developing meaningful standards to increase reliability and security of driver's license and ID cards." The 2004 law forbids DHS to require conformance of drivers’ licenses or personal identification cards to a single design across all states.

"Our states have made great strides since the September 11 terrorists attacks to enhance the security processes and requirements for receiving a valid driver's license and ID card. The [existing] framework ... will allow us to work cooperatively with the federal government to develop and implement achievable standards to prevent document fraud and other illegal activity," the NGA/AAMVA letter to Congress stated. "Governors and motor vehicle administrators are committed to this process because it will allow us to develop mutually agreed-upon standards that can truly help create a more secure America."

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